Not only are the new generation of box wines good, they're a terrific value. A three-liter box, or cask, holds four (750ml) bottles of wine and costs from $10 to $25. The wine is exposed to very little air, so it stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. Look for producers such as Banrock Station, Sonoma Hill Winery, and Hardys.
Looking to entertain in a casual, laid-back style this summer? Consider a wine-and-cheese party. No prior wine- or cheese-buying experience is necessary. This type of entertaining is really tailor-made for warm-weather gatherings.
When selecting cheeses, remember that soft ones tend to be either mild or tart, while hard cheeses are often salty and more assertive in flavor. Use this guide when selecting wines. Young, fresh, and creamy cheeses are best with light, acidic whites. Apply the same thought to most aged, full-bodied cheeses and red wine.
If you're new to wine, don't worry. The market is loaded with terrific, great-tasting wines for less than $12. Look for consistent producers such as Gallo of Sonoma, Columbia Crest, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, Beringer Founders' Estate, Wolf Blass, Lindemans, Rosemount Estate, and Santa Rita. For special occasions, Clos du Bois, William Hill, Clos du Val, and Morgan all make splurge-worthy wines.
The South also produces a wide array of outstanding reds and whites. Because of distribution regulations, however, many are tough to find. If luck is on your side, you can give a decidedly regional twist to your wine-and-cheese party with Southern favorites such as Château Élan, Biltmore Estate, Linden, Valhalla Vineyards, Stone Hill Winery, Shelton Vineyards, Becker Vineyards, and Llano Estacado.
Presentation can run from a simple two- or three-cheese selection with a couple of wines to a more elaborate sampling of multiple cheeses paired with individual wines. The event can be as loose or formal as you prefer. Either way, stick with our pairing tips and serving suggestions, and you'll look like a pro.
Cabernet Sauvignon--sharp Cheddar, Swiss, Asiago, aged dry Jack
Merlot--sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gouda
Chardonnay--mild Cheddar, smoked mozzarella
Sauvignon Blanc--blue (Gorgonzola and Roquefort), goat, Comte, Gruyère
Riesling--Brie, Camembert, Gruyère
Champagne or sparkling wine--Brie, Camembert, fontina
Wine and cheese are best served with simple accompaniments such as these.
For a copy of the Southern Living Wine Guide & Journal, contact a Southern Living At HOME consultant near you, or visit southernlivingathome.com.